Tag Archives: Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder

OPINION: Climate Anxiety Is Not a Diagnosis, It’s a New Reality

by Sarah Stuteville


“Smoke season makes for beautiful sunsets.” I remember the first time I said that — watching the sky streak a deep, gritty pink over Lake Washington. Even more vividly, I recall the hot grief that flared in my chest a moment later. And now there’s a word for that. “Blissonance” refers to the experience of enjoying the natural world alongside parallel awareness of threats to it. And even your contribution to those threats. 

In fact, there’s a lexicon rapidly emerging to help us express the complex and often horrifying experience of living through rapid climate change and its visceral impacts. “Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder” refers to living with a constant sense of imminent and irreversible environmental damage. An “empathetic blench” is the experience of receiving a gift that contributes to environmental destruction (in my world often plastic children’s toys encased in more plastic) from a generous and well-meaning source. “Solastalgia” describes the loss of personally meaningful environments and even weather patterns. With that last one I think of my physical yearning for Seattle’s infamous “June Gloom” during the recent record-busting, and deadly, heatwave.

In the field of counseling, the more common vocabulary includes “eco-anxiety,” “eco-grief,” “climate depression,” and “eco-paralysis.” I learned about these terms at a recent training for “climate-informed” therapists — a professional competency that is, unfortunately, increasingly relevant. 

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